09. A Visual History of Peterson’s Pipe of the Year: 1997 – 2020 (Revised)
After Charles Peterson’s System pipe, Tom Palmer’s Dublin-era Pipe of the Year is arguably the company’s most noteworthy accomplishment in the worldwide pipe-smoking community. It’s an idea that other companies and artisans have since imitated and continue to imitate. It’s one that’s given us some of Peterson’s most remarkable pipes in the B and D shape charts.
The series has completed its 23rd year, and as Pete Freeks and other pipe companioners and collectors often have questions about them, I thought one place to begin would be a visual dictionary of all twenty-four pipes. That’s right, there are actually twenty-four different shapes, because in 2000 a set of two different shapes was released. Here we go.
When the series began, it had two names, one stamped on the bowl–LIMITED EDITION–and another by which it was commonly called–PIPE OF THE YEAR. Most in the hobby now use POY as the preferred acryonym.
Only the smooth pipes are called “Limited Edition” and numbered. The sandblasted edition (aside from the Founder’s Edition 2015 POTY) is called the “Pipe of the Year” and stamped accordingly. That is, until 2016, when “Limited Edition” stamping was dropped and the series began being stamped PIPE OF THE YEAR. There are a few other “ifs, and, and buts,” but this will get you started.
1999 Limited Edition
The first four years of production lacked a year stamp (aside from the sterling hallmark) and were just stamped “LIMITED EDITION” and so on. That changed in 2001, when Peterson began stamping “Y” plus the year above the “LIMITED EDITION.”
2001 Limited Edition: The First with the “Y” Prefix
2006 Limited Edition
For those curious to know, the 2004 and 2008 bowls are, per Tony Whelan, Jr., former factory manager, exactly the same.
The 2014 was the first to feature only the availability of an acrylic mouthpiece and is, arguably, the worst POY the company has ever released. I don’t normally intrude with my own opinions, but the bowl here is gigantic. It bears only a passing resemblance to a classic Peterson Patent. The acrylic stem is atrocious. The only thing I liked was the box. More’s the pity. At the time it was released, the company was convinced that there was a preference among smokers for the less-intensive upkeep of acrylic. This shape would become the last of the B shape group, the B65, in its subsequent appearances.
As of this revision (April 2021), the tide has long turned among collectors, with most preferring good vulcanite over acrylic. Artisans, at least in the US, are mostly of the same mind, that using high-quality German SEM ebonite (vulcanite) rod is the way to go for comfort as well as durability. Unfortunately, K&P seems to have burned their bridges. The new owners at Laudisi don’t seem to be able to source anyone on the entire planet who can make vulcanite mouthpieces. This is bizarre, but it’s what they say. I do know for a fact that their sales reps, the ones who sell Peterson pipes to brick & mortar shops, routinely bad-mouth vulcanite and praise acrylic for the simple reason that B&Ms no longer operate as full-service tobacconists. There’s no one there with the tools or talent to buff a vulcanite stem.
The FE was issued in an edition of 1865 pieces, to commemorate the year the company was founded, with smooth, sandblast and rustic pieces all being given a serial number. The mouthpiece for the FE is vulcanite, incidentally. It was produced in fishtail and mouthpiece. Many of the bowls had several fills, which was a tragedy, but there you go.
The FE became shape D18 after debuting as the FE / POY in 2016. A few of the highest-grade bowls were later issued in Lubinski’s Kapp-Royal line and, even more desirable, as a very few System pipes with old-style tapered space-fitting mouthpieces.
In 2020, the new Laudisi management of K&P decided to make the D18 into a System called the Pub Pipe, which was a great decision. Unfortunately, they weren’t interested in using the awesome vulcanite tapered P-Lip they’d already used in Mario Lubinski’s D18 Systems earlier, but went with a bent acrylic P-Lip, which (and this is just my opinion) isn’t nearly as classy.
The 2016 POY is, in my opinion, one of the most innovative and amazing shapes ever released at Peterson. It utilizes classic the Peterson design language elements of straight-sided bowl and massive shank to create a simple, elegant, contemporary design that is fresh and innovative. No P-Lip, of course. It became shape D20 in its subsequent releases and I believe I may be the only Pete Geek on the planet who loves it. Oh, and it was limited to 500 pieces.
2017 Pipe of the Year
For the first time in the annual release, in 2017 the LIMITED EDITION hand stamp was replaced with a laser-engraved conglomerate stamp that reads “Peterson [in script] (over) OF DUBLIN [small caps] (over) Pipe of the Year (over) 2017 (over) [number of pipe] of 500.” Laser-engraving was a pet project of Tom Palmer, who was CEO and owner of K&P at the time. It was not, various craftsmen told me, something they liked. And neither did I, for the same reasons: it’s a machine, not a person. And it’s no deeper or more permanent than hand-stamping, perhaps less so.
The bowl on this one is close, but not an exact replica of the 1906 “Jap.” I know this because I’ve held Chuck Wright’s Jap set that he bequeathed to K&P Peterson brought to the 2019 Chicagoland Pipe Show. The bowl walls are thicker than the original and the bowl itself is slightly oval-shaped when seen from the top, not the ball shape of the original. It became shape D21 after its debut as the 2017 POY. The acrylic mount–what can I say? It’s not comfortable.
2018 “Gaslight” Pipe of the Year
I love this Peterson “gaslight” shape, one of the most original in the entire history of the series. You can read about it and its evolution in the blog on the 2018 POY. It became shape D22 in the catalog, but as of May 2019, I hadn’t seen it in any subsequent lines.
2019 Chubby Rhodesian [“john bull”] Pipe of the Year
For the first POY of the new Laudisi Era, the company chose an homage to the classic 1937 chubby rhodesian. Per Jonathan Fields, factory manager, the bowl is not the original 999 or any of its subsequent iterations. It is shape XL661, which is essentially an XL version of the current 999. Having said that, the external dimensions of the XL661 are close to the original 999 John Bull but the chamber is way off–a bit shallower and much wider (sorry, virignia fans).
But the 2019 POY is also cause for at least a bit of celebration in that, for the first time in the POY’s history, it was released with a vulcanite P-Lip. Check the blog for a full-length analysis of the shape. Bowls stamped 1-10 were released in Natural, another first in POY history. The bend and band are also incorrect if you look at it as some kind of authentic john bull reproduction, so my advice is to simply see it as another in K&P’s long series of mild homages to shapes from their past which they and everyone else aggressively markets as the real deal. As if Pete Geeks, true sons of the original Thinking Man, didn’t have the ability to research and think.
2020 9BC Homage Pipe of the Year
This both is, and isn’t, a 9BC. It’s not the chubby critter we’ve come to love and look for on the estate market, but it is something special. The work K&P’s pipe specialist Giacomo Penzo did is spectacular. The shape actually came out looking like the original more nuanced and curvy, cheeked shape 9 that K&P made from 1891 to around 1935 or so. It’s a gorgeous piece and as they only made 400, it looks like it’s sold out. It was made available in a dark smooth (Europe only, I think) stain that’s what K&P is now calling “heritage,” in rustic, standard terracota (seen below left), PSB black sandblast (the high-grade blast), black sandblast and Natural. I know the Naturals were at the top of the numbers, but never heard whether it was only 10 like 2019’s POY. There was also a single Supreme, pictured below.
Smooth finish (left) and PSB black (right)
1/400: The Supreme POY 2020
With this second POY from the Laudisi Peterson, it looks as if the the company has abandoned the Dublin era’s tradition of creating new shapes and releasing them as the annual POY or in special collections. On the up side of this, it would also appear that we’ll be treated to an homage of an old classic every year, and one with a vulcanite P-Lip to boot. And that’s good enough, right?
2021 4AB Rathbone
This pipe is very close to my heart and is the culmination of a long journey into the pipes of Basil Rathbone’s Sherlock Holmes. You can read all about that journey in my book (see the BOOK tab), but for now I want to celebrate K&P’s achievement: the bowl of the 2021 is a dead ringer, exact in every detail, with the shape 4 bowl from the 1930s and indeed, from the very beginning of the shape in the 1890s. The ferrule and stem were quite difficult to retro-engineer, but again, the craftsmen did a wonderful job. Only four hundred were made, across the full spectrum of available finishes. Bravo!
2022 14B Mark Twain Original
For 2022, K&P went back to the earliest iteration of shape 14, the shape that would reinvigorate Peterson’s reputation when it was re-released in the 1981 Mark Twain commemorative homage, establishing that pipe as the single most important release in the catalog for the next 35 years. The 2022 version hews very, very closely to the earliest version of the 14 from the 1896 and 1906 catalogs. The “wear gap” as K&P now calls the “space fitting” gap between tenon and mortise, has also been reduced to approximate the earliest designs of the Patent and IFS era Deluxe B stems. As in 2021, the vulcanite P-Lip stem features an aluminum tenon extension and is exquisite. 925 were made across all available finishes.
I’ve had several of LEs in my rotation over the years and from time to time think it might be fun to collect all of them, but then I get practical and remember pipes that I didn’t hit it off with and pipes that lay gathering resentment and tarnish in the rack. The curse of not being a collector, I suppose. If you or anyone you know has a complete collection, please drop me a line—I’d love to blog about your collection.
Smokingpipes.com, Alpascia.it, Bollitopipe.it, Charles Mundugus, The Briary, James Fox and
the Black Swann Shoppe
Thanks to everyone who has helped keep this post current and accurate.